Throughout the coming weeks, NYWIFT will sit down with members of the film and television community for a look at how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the industry, particularly those who work in the indie and art house world. And how women are adapting, evolving, and growing creatively. If you would like to share your story please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are compiling a NYWIFT Emergency Resource Directory on our homepage – please continue to check back as we update it with the latest information.
By Heidi Philipsen
Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival. She is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics and runs her own site, A Reel Of One’s Own. No matter the circumstances, she has no intention of becoming any less obsessed with cinema, comics, or nerdom in general.
I caught up with Andrea to discuss how the COVID-19 quarantine is affecting her livelihood and the livelihood of other film critics like her.
How as the COVID-19 pandemic affected your organization?
While the organization that I founded, the Film Girl Film Festival, hasn’t been hit too hard. We have had to cancel a few events, such as networking and screening event for local filmmakers at a gallery I work for in Chicago, the Agitator Gallery. And there were a few events at No Studios, an arts venue in Milwaukee, which I was planning to attend to support a few friends of mine and do some networking. And those have obviously been canceled.
But luckily, I had already arranged for the festival to occur at a new venue, the Avalon, and solidified the dates the film festival itself, which isn’t until November. This was a very near miss, because I had seriously considered having the festival in March for Women’s History Month, which would have been a disaster.
How are people/businesses/films affected by and reacting to the social distancing?
Everyone’s being affected by social distancing in some way, no matter their age, race, orientation, or income. We already knew how connected and intertwined our world is, but the virus is really bringing this point home. And it’s also showing us how inequality affects us all, from well-meaning celebs who post videos about how we’re all the same (we may all be, but privilege will affect how likely we are to not only catch but survive the virus), to those who are already overworked and underpaid, but still expected to provide the services we depend on.
Films and movie theaters, both of which traditionally depend on a communal experience, are also having to adapt. I’m honestly less concerned about the bigger films than smaller ones, [which] may essentially disappear without gaining traction. But we are all adapting, because life simply has to go on. Film festivals are having a tougher time, but this is where the smaller film fests might ironically have it easier, as many seem to be able to have more flexibility about rearranging.
Are you all still working? From home? How is that going for you?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m able to work from home, and so is my partner. It’s going pretty well for both of us. And the nonprofit I work for in my day job, the International Children’s Media Center, has been very supportive of its staff.
What are little ways that you and your organizations are coping on a personal level? And how does that help your professional teams?
The International Children’s Media Center has set up Zoom meetings every now and then, and I’m checking up on people I’ve known both personally and professionally. Since we can’t really meet in person, people are ironically reaching out more.
And I also have a lot to stay busy with as a freelance writer, what with catching up on reviews, writing essays, and pitching. I also always have more work for the Film Girl Film Festival, so while I’m a little stir crazy right now, there’s always some task that needs to be done.
Clemence Taillandier is an independent film distribution veteran, having worked as a theatrical booker for over 15 years. She now operates her own distribution services company and provides theatrical, festival booking and consultation services to boutique distributors including Film Movement and Distrib Films, two distributors specialized in foreign films and documentaries. She has been at the forefront of moving the cinema experience to a virtual space in the wake of COVID-19.READ MORE
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For many Americans, regional festivals are their gateway to independent film and filmmakers. How are local festivals continuing to connect artists to audiences during the pandemic? Lela Meadow-Conner, Executive Director, and Barbara Twist, Director of Membership of Film Festival Alliance update us on the rapidly changing industry.READ MORE
These past few weeks of self-isolation have been eye-opening, regarding the notion of being alone and isolated from peers, loved ones, family, and friends. In our struggle to find a new equilibrium and routine, we appear to have stumbled into a period of connectivity, which is different but perhaps even greater than before. NYWIFT member Cassandra Seidenfeld reflects on how social distancing in the time of COVID-19 has encouraged her to connect in new ways.READ MORE